[Hales] The Spirit of Revolution | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Hales] The Spirit of Revolution

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that we have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together, or we are going to learn to live together; and if we are to live together, we have to talk. Those words, spoken more than half a century ago, still hold relevance today.

Unfortunately, Americans have a grim history of hostility toward people who we think are different. In this history, you find that uninformed passion, lies and half-truths have often led our citizens to adopt lynch-mob mentalities that produce tragic episodes in American history such as the Salem witch trials, Jim Crow lynchings and the McCarthy trials of the Red Scare.

As a great nation that prides itself on being a democracy for the people, one would think that these attitudes of animosity and prejudice would be a thing of the past. Earlier this year, in the weeks after the Iowa Democratic Caucus, a major U.S. magazine even posed the question of whether or not race was still a relevant issue. From the outside looking in, it may appear that race is no longer an issue—the assumed Democratic candidate for the presidency is African American, and more minorities have served in the Bush administration than that of any other president.

For the first time in American history, it looks like we are one country, one people, with one common goal, right? Wrong.

If you take a closer look at what is going on, the country is more divided than ever. In recent weeks we have seen the aftermath of the controversies surrounding the current presidential elections and other events in the news, and it is apparent that we are divided politically, racially and religiously. Things have legitimately improved on the racial front between whites and blacks, but instead of us putting all prejudice and animosity behind us, we just found new people to attack.

It is no longer blacks who are inferior in this country; it is no longer the Negro male who is a threat to American society. Now it is the Liberals who are so-called destroying America; it is the illegal immigrants who are making us sick (the legal ones, too, if you listen to some people); every person with an Arabic name is a radical terrorist; and all white people are evil. Sounds kind of crazy, huh? Exactly, but these are the type of statements that I hear and fight against every day.

We have created a social environment that pre-conceived assumptions about others based solely on religion, class, race and political affiliation. Now, no one in their right mind claims these stereotypes in public, but they show up in our movies, writings and the way that we interact in everyday life.

We see a young black male driving a nice car with rims and a loud stereo system and automatically associate him as being "hood" or a "thug." We see a white rural farmer working hard to feed his family but has a rebel flag on his license plate to show his Southern pride, and we assume that he is a racist or a "redneck." We see a Mexican American working a construction job, and we assume that he is illegal, disrespectful and unsanitary. We walk into a clothing store or gas station owned by an immigrant from the Middle East, and we assume that everything in the store is counterfeit.

Don't believe me? Next time you get on a plane, and they call up someone with an Arabic name, just watch the expressions on people's faces. As a matter of fact, I have an even better idea: Just read the comments on your local newspaper's Web site. What you will discover is a nation divided—a nation divided over every issue simply because we have not allowed ourselves to accept differences between one another, whether it is race, religion or political beliefs.

People will never admit to having prejudice because that is a modern-day scarlet letter. We would like to act like these stereotypes no longer exist, yet these same characterizations show up in our music, movies and jokes.

Time has come that we end this war in America. Unlike the Civil War that divided this country more than 100 years ago, this war is not being fought with guns and knives, or on the battlefield. This war is being fought on the Internet, radio and television with words, blogs and advertisements. The thing is, unlike the Civil War, I am not sure that America can recover from much more fallout. It is going to take the effort of a nation to heal a nation. Everyone needs to self-reflect and ask themselves if they a part of the problem.

As long as we continue to discuss these issues in churches, barbershops and on the golf course, we will never grow closer as a nation. Remember, if history teaches one lesson it is that great nations never fall because of invasion, but rather they crumble from the inside out.

Anthony Hales Jr. is a graduate of Jackson State University, and currently resides in New Orleans.

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